Mt Whitewall & Thoreau Falls Bushwhack
Hiking/Walk DATE: 06/10/2018 - 06/10/2018
Trip/Event Location: Bretton Woods, NH
Trip Leader(s): shep5
Max # People: 10
Trip Guiding / Event Fee: No, I will not be asking participants for money
Difficulty Level: Moderate to Strenuous
Join me for a relatively easy bushwhack to the summit of Mount Whitewall (3405') with its dramatic cliffs, which make up the eastern wall of Zealand Notch. This mountain is not climbed of... Driving directions to the location and spot to meet at:
NOTE: After a late opening and necessary road maintenance, Zealand Road is finally open all the way to the trailhead as of June 1, 2018.
From the intersection of Routes 3 and 302 in Twin Mountain, travel to the east for 2.2 miles. At the Zealand Campground, turn left onto Zealand Road and continue for 3.1 miles to the trailhead parking lot at the end of the road.
For GPS Users: Zealand Road, Bretton Woods, NH (44.224939, -71.478517). To obtain custom directions, copy and paste the GPS coordinates directly into Google Maps.
As I finished my hike of the Hancocks early, I stopped in Lincoln to check the status of this trip. As of 4PM, noone else signed up on the website, so I decided that I would start my trip early. In such an event, I had packed my backpack and I would add Mt. Hale to the trip. I arrived at the Hale Brook Trailhead at roughly 4:30PM on Saturday afternoon. The lot was again full, but luckily someone was leaving as I arrived. I got quickly ready and headed up the Hale Brook Trail. It was only 2.2 miles to the summit and I figured I would make it somewhere on the other side before dark.
As I started out at 4:35PM, I was immediately attacked by black flies. I hadn't see them earlier in the day on the Hancocks. They weren't bad, as long as I kept moving though. I was tired and now with a full-backpack, it was fairly slow going. As I was climbing up, I was running into hikers descending. The trail was modestly steep at times, but in the upper half of the climb there are a series of switchbacks, which make it a little easier. For the final portion of this trail, there were very limited views through the trees, but I could see that Mt. Washington was visible. I reached the summit of Mt. Hale (4054') at 6:15. It was sunny and clear, but unfortunately, there was not much of a view even from atop of the large cairn. I had the peak to myself, but I didn't stay too long, as I still needed to seek out a suitable spot for the night.
At 6:25PM, I started to descend the Lend-A-Hand Trail. This was moderately steep at times, but my pace quickened now that I was descending. Just below the peak I passed through a couple of large areas of cleared blowdowns. On the way down there were good views of South Hale as well as Zeacliff and Mt. Zealand. There were no great options for spending the night along much of this trail...the flatter areas were all marshy with no stagnant water and the few running brooks which I crossed had no clear, level areas. I finally reached the edge of the forest protection area for Zealand Hut at 7:45. This was by a brook and there was a semi-flat clearing just over the brook in the woods, so I preceeded to set up camp for the night. After getting set up and stringing a line for the bearbag, I ate dinner (Mexican Chicken and Rice). While I was eating at about 8:45, two rather large animals ran right by me. One was chasing the other and as it was getting dark I couldn't tell what they were, but by their shape and size, I guessed that they might have been bobcats. By 9:30 I decided to call it a night and turn in.
It was a rather chilly night dipping down to around 40. I woke up before 5AM on Sunday with the light and I starting making breakfast (scrambled eggs and hot chocolate) and breaking camp. I hit the trail again at around 6AM. In no time, I reached the Twinway and it was only a little bit further to get to the Zealand Falls Hut. I headed inside to refill my water bottles for the day. The caretakers were busy making breakfast and folks were starting to stir with a few of them having coffee out at the falls. I chatted with one of the AMC volunteers for a bit and then by 6:15 I headed down to the Zealand Trail junction. Here I proceeded north to the A-Z Trail passing by the shores of Zealand Pond along the way. At 6:40 I turned onto the A-Z Trail and it wasn't long before I encountered a trailside tent site. I checked it out and there was a herd path which headed uphill. I decided this would be as good as any for the ascent, so I just started up. The woods were very open for the first 20 minutes, but afterwards, I reached a few areas of overgrown hobblebush. This was over my head, and was easier to get through than pine, but it still slowed by progress at times. The higher I got the clearer the woods got for the most part and by about 8AM I was encountered well-worn moose paths. It was only another 20 minutes, when I reached the open, marshy areas on the summit. I could see Mt. Carrigain, but I still needed to get to the open ledges on the southwest side of the mountain. It took me another 20 minutes to reach these ledges and by 8:40 I was treated to grand, expansive views over the Pemigewasset Wilderness...Mt. Hale to Mt. Carrigain with partial views of the Willey Range. I spent about 10 minutes here and then headed for the actual summit of Mt. Whitewall. I followed the herdpaths most of the way over to the summit and after finding an initial cairn, I went a little further and found another cairn and the summit canister (3405'). This summit has some partial views, but was thinly treed around it. I didn't stay too long and decided to head east off of the summit. The last time I was here, I headed a little north before descending, but I wan't going to visit the pond this time, so I thought I would just start down. Very soon into my descent, there were some serious cliffs below me. I paralleled the cliffs following the ledge north for a bit until I found a better point of descent. It wasn't long and I was able to get down a little more easily. By 9:20 I reached a number of birch glades and old logging roads. Continuing further downhill I reached the brook at 9:45 and followed this the rest of the way to Ethan Brook, which I crossed at a little after 10AM. The trail (AT) was just up the opposite bank.
Now back on a trail, I headed west. It only took me about 15 minutes to reach the bridge and another few minutes to the junction for the Thoreau Falls Trail. I went out to the Falls and reached them in about 5 minutes. The views from the top looking into the wildness was spectacular. I had visited the falls before and unfortunately, you don't get a great view from above. I was told that there was a great view from the base, but I didn't have the energy to explore them on the previous trip. This time I dropped my pack and bushwhacked down the steep bank to the base of the falls. It was not particularly easy to reach, but it was well worth it to see the entire drop. I climbed back up the bank and after reaching the top ledge again, I filtered some additional water before heading back to the Ethan Pond Trail, which I again joined at 10:50. I continued to follow this trail as it turned north through the spectacular Zealand Notch. The views of Hale, Zeacliff and Whitewall were magnificient. At 11:50 I reached the Zealand Trail again and took this trail all the way back to the trailhead passing a number of beaver ponds along the way. It was another hour when I made it to the parking lot for this trailhead. As I was parked a mile down the road at the Hale Brook parking lot, I still had a roadwalk. I finally completed the trip at 1:10PM. It was odd, but when I reached my car, I was again swarmed by black flies, where I had seen them Saturday afternoon, but nowhere else during my trip.
What a wonderful backpack/overnight camping on the backside of Mt. Hale and bushwhack over Mt. Whitewall! My earlier bushwhack of Mt. Whitewall took me up the cliff face, but this trip used the more common approach from the A-Z Trail. It was interesting and fairly easy. Still the views were incredible and worth the effort in exploring another route.
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Scorpione Jun 12, 2018 at 4:30 PM